• Share

What is a Rotating Schedule? An Inside Look

The modern workforce has many different types of jobs. Some businesses don’t have the traditional 40 hours per week, 9 to 5 work schedule. Instead, they implement a rotating schedule.

If you own a business outside of the regular work hours, such as restaurants or bars, it can be challenging to keep your employees happy. What is the best strategy?

A common problem for managers is choosing between a fixed schedule or a rotating schedule. Which one should you choose?

What Is A Rotating Schedule?

A rotating schedule is like it sounds: employees are scheduled for a specific shift, such as the night shift. Click To Tweet

For example, one week, they work day shifts and then switch to nights during the next set period of schedule.

How Does A Rotating Schedule Work?

rotating schedule

The process of a rotating schedule is quite simple. The manager would probably break down the work schedule in a diner, with one shift starting at 8 am and ending at 4 pm. The next shift would start at 4 pm and end at midnight.

It’s unfair that the same staff members have to work days every week because night shifts are more lucrative (because of the tips).

So, to give people the chance to work different shifts, the manager decided on a rotating schedule. This means that staff can switch between working day or night for a couple of weeks at a time.

3 Types of Rotating Schedules

rotating schedule

Managers often break up shifts into simple rotations, but there are many other ways to structure shift changes. Here’s a look at the three options available.

Dupont shift schedule

This is a popular scheduling strategy for businesses that require 24/7 coverage. The system features 12-hour rotating shifts and breaks employees into four teams who rotate through an 8-part cycle that goes as follows:

  • Four-night shifts
  • Three days off
  • Three-day shifts
  • One day off
  • Three-night shifts
  • Three days off
  • Four-day shifts
  • Seven days off

This method has a week-long vacation every month. But employees have to work 72 hours in one week with a 24-hour break in the middle of each month. 

Pitman shift schedule

This “every other weekend off” schedule consists of 4 teams working 12-hour shifts. The 2-week cycle looks like this:

  • Team 1: 2-day shifts, two days off, three-day shifts, two days off, two-day shifts, three days off
  • Team 2: 2-night shifts, two days off, three-night shifts, two days off, two-night shifts, three days off
  • Team 3: 2 days out, two-day shifts, three days off, two-night shifts, two days off, three-night shifts
  • Team 4: 2 days off, two-night shifts, three days off, two-day shifts, two days off, three-day shifts

The Pitman Schedule requires employees to work 42 hours a week, but they are given every other weekend off. They also will never have to work more than three days in a row. However, they have to work 12-hour shifts, which can be exhausting.

2-2, 3-2, 2-3 rotating shift schedule

This alternate version of the Pitman shift schedule has four teams, two 12-hour shifts, and a 4-week cycle. Staff work day or night shifts for two weeks and switch the opposite change for the next two weeks. The schedule goes as follows:

  •     Two-day shifts
  •     Two days off
  •     Three-day shifts
  •     Two days off
  •     Two-day shifts
  •     Three days off
  •     Two-night shifts
  •     Two days off
  •     Three-night shifts
  •     Two days off
  •     Two-night shifts
  •     Three days off

Employees enjoy three days off every other weekend and never have to work more than three days in a row. But this schedule requires staff to work 62 hours in one week. Switching from day to night shifts can also cause sleep pattern disruptions.


rotating schedule

Benefits of a Rotating Schedule

A rotating schedule seems like a good idea because of the benefits of not being stuck on one shift. Employees don’t get burned out, and they also earn more in tips if their hours are swapped around (applies to restaurant staff).

Crucial experience

When employees work during off-peak hours, they may have difficulty adjusting to the change if their next shift is during peak traffic. With occasional shifts swaps, these employees will likely need to cover a hectic shift.

If you use a rotating schedule, employees will understand the ebbs and flows of your business. When they have experience in all shifts, it is easier for them to take on any task at any time.


When an employee takes time off, you’ll need to locate a replacement. Employees who are comfortable working any shift will always be people available and willing to take their spot. Giving employees flexibility for when they work lets them make room for other things they want or need.

When you have a set schedule, an employee might need to take the day off because of personal events. This means that they are not at work, and it also affects their productivity when they are there.

How to Make a Rotating Schedule

rotating schedule

This plan does not consider how many days your employees work per week, and it doesn’t include a weekend strategy. It is best to configure a schedule with one of the other plans. The easiest way to do this would be by having two teams that switch shifts every two weeks.

Let us take a step-by-step walkthrough using the Pitman method.

1. Divide employees into teams

There are many roles in a restaurant, and each team should have employees who can fulfill all of them. Label the groups, so you know which people will be needed during any given shift.

2. Assign each team to a shift

The Pitman method has a 2-week rotation; each team will work the designated change for two weeks before moving to the next.

Here’s how to set up the team rotations:

Team 1

  • Week one: 2-day shifts, two days off, three-day shifts
  • Week Two: 2 days out, two-day shifts, three days off
  • Week three: 2-night shifts, two days off, two-night shifts
  • Week 4: 2 days off, two-night shifts, three days off

Team 2

  • Week one: 2 days out, two-day shifts, three days off
  • Week two: 2-night shifts, two days off, two-night shifts 
  • Week three: 2 days off, two-night shifts, three days off
  • Week four: 2-day shifts, two days off, three-day shifts

Team 3

  • Week one: 2-night shifts, two days off, two-night shifts
  • Week Two: 2 days off, two-night shifts, three days off
  • Week three: 2-day shifts, two days off, three-day shifts
  • Week four: 2 days out, two-day shifts, three days off

Team 4

  • Week one: 2 days off, two-night shifts, three days off
  • Week two: 2-day shifts, two days off, three-day shifts
  • Week three: 2 days out, two-day shifts, three days off
  • Week four: 2-night shifts, two days off, two-night shifts

Every team has the same rotation pattern; they are just staggered. To make things easier, you can use the free Scheduling App Homebase to copy last week’s shift schedule and switch the names, so you only need to set up the rotation once.

rotating schedule


Fixed vs. Rotating Schedule

If you do not want to try a rotating schedule (which can be difficult for some people), then have your employees work on a fixed schedule.

What is a fixed schedule?

A fixed schedule means a team of employees working the day shift, another section for night-shift work, and one more to fill in where needed. Employees are not put on a cycle. The schedule doesn’t change.

The benefits of a fixed schedule

Many employees prefer a fixed schedule because it is predictable and consistent. This makes scheduling events, appointments, etc., more accessible and allows them to work second jobs or go to college more easily. It also helps maintain healthy sleep patterns.

Which Schedule Works Best for Your Business?

The best way to figure out which type of scheduling strategy is right for your business is by talking with the staff. Click To Tweet

If your employees are happy with the work schedule, they will be more productive and efficient.